Thousands turn out for Clark tribute

The streets of Duns echoed to the roar of the track at the weekend as thousands gathered to pay tribute to motor racing legend Jim Clark.

Over 3,000 packed the town’s Newtown Street to watch the once-in-a-lifetime moment when two of Jim’s famous Lotus 25 racing cars blasted up and down the road.

Crowds gather on Newtown Street as Club Lotus exhibit Jim Clark's Lotus25 race cars in Duns on the 50th anniversary of his first F1 world championship

Crowds gather on Newtown Street as Club Lotus exhibit Jim Clark's Lotus25 race cars in Duns on the 50th anniversary of his first F1 world championship

Fans had come from all over the world, drawn by the legend of the man who raced to the first of two world championship titles 50 years ago this year.

More than 60 Lotus cars lined the street by the town’s Jim Clark Room museum. They included just about every model of Lotus, from the Elite and Elan through the Europa, Esprit and Excel to the Elise, Exige and Evora.

But the stars of the show were two of Jim’s cars brought up from Classic Team Lotus headquarters in Norfolk by Clive Chapman, son of Colin, who built them.

Clive said: “When we fire these up the noise will echo like crazy. The interest is fantastic and it is real privilege to be here and ­represent my family.”

Lined up, were the Lotus 25 Chassis R4 which he raced to victory in eight out of 12 Formula 1 races in 1963, and Lotus 25 Chassis R5, the spare car used the same year.

Getting them ready for their moment was Bob Dance, 78, who was Jim’s mechanic.

Bob said: “Jim liked to get to know the people who worked on his car. He liked to meet them and learn something about them. He was just such a naturally brilliant driver.”

Alan Morgan, chairman of Club Lotus, said he was “overjoyed and astonished” at the turnout for the event.

He added: “We thought we might attract around 1,000 but the number of people who turned out was just fantastic. Many people came up to me and said thank you for putting the event on - what are you going to do next year? The support we received from everyone was just brilliant.

“I must also thank Lothian and Borders Police and Scottish Borders Council for their support, they have been fantastic”

John Bowers, owner of the Lotus 25 R4 came all the way from Sydney to drive his car and Nick Fennell, owner of the R5, was also present. Each of the two cars is worth in excess £1 million today.

Other motorsporting guests who attended the event included Ian Scott-watson, Doug Niven, Andrew Cowan, John Clelland, Bernard Buss and Anita Taylor, sister of Jim’s one time team mate at Lotus, Trevor Taylor.

A specially-gathered collection of Jim Clark memorabilia was also on display in the Library across from the Jim Clark Room courtesy of the curator and fount of Jim Clark knowledge, Andrew Tulloch.

On Friday Club Lotus Chairman Alan Morgan and Brian “Elanman” Buckland retraced Jim’s route from the old Lotus factory in Cheshunt in London to the ex-Clark family farm at Edington Mains near Chirnside in Jim’s very first Elan, registered 997 NUR.

Rumour has it that when Jim was stopped south of the Border for speeding on his way home from London in his Elan (fact), the constable who approached the vehicle remarked, “Just who do you think you are – Stirling Moss?” Jim’s reply - “No, I am Jim Clark, from Scotland. I am Formula 1 World Champion. My good friend Stirling was never quite able to claim that title.”

A commemorative dinner was held on Saturday evening in the Chirnside Hall Hotel, the scene of the local ‘hops’ which Jim attended with Ian Scott Watson in his early teens. Guest of honour was Clive Chapman, managing director of Classic Team Lotus and still a very active figure on the Lotus scene.

After Sunday’s event in Duns all the Lotus cars, spearheaded by the single seaters, drove the five miles in convoy from Duns to Chirnside Churchyard where a short ceremony was held at Jim’s graveside in remembrance of one of Scotland’s greatest world champions.

Jim Clark’s racing career is unique, in that as well as Formula 1 single-seaters, he drove a wider variety of other cars to victory than probably any other top flight drivers in the history of the sport. In Colin Chapman’s cars, he became world F1 Champion in 1963 and 1965 and narrowly missed out in 1962 and 1964 through mechanical failures in the last races of both seasons.

However, because in those days F1 drivers were not contracted to race exclusively for Formula 1 teams, Jim took full advantage.

He raced Porsche, Jaguar, Galaxie, Lotus Cortina etc. This was despite the remarkably close bond between Jim and Colin, to whom he dedicated his Formula 1 career. He and Colin went to Indianapolis with the Lotus team and in 1965 trounced the American front-engined dinosaurs in their own back/Brick yard, the first foreigner - never mind Scotsman - to win the legendary 500.

In the end Jim’s keenness to race whatever was to hand was perhaps his undoing; at a relatively minor race on April 7, 1968, Jim was killed, with not a soul as witness, driving a Formula 2 single-seater out on a remote part of the Hockenheim Circuit in Germany, A suspected failure of tyre or suspension in his race car was the likely cause.

A carefully tended memorial to Jim is to be found at the circuit to this day, thanks to the efforts of various contributors from around the world including Ford of America.

It was not long after the carnage of crashes that killed so many of Jim’s contemporaries that Jackie Stewart, Jim’s compatriot, began his very determined campaign to improve safety for drivers (and spectators) in F1 racing.